The Ladies Man (1961)
“Everyone’s talking about Jerry Lewis as The Ladies Man???”
Director: Jerry Lewis
Cast: Jerry Lewis, Helen Traubel, Pat Stanley
Synopsis: After his girl leaves him for someone else, Herbert gets really depressed and starts searching for a job. He finally finds one in a big house which is inhabited by many, many women.
In The Ladies Man, as with the previous year’s The Bellboy and 1961’s The Errand Boy, Jerry Lewis (Cinderfella) abandons a storyline in order to deliver a succession of hit-and-miss sketches centred around a house full of desirable young woman. The joke is that Lewis’s character, Herbert H. Heebert, is trying his best to avoid women after discovering that his girlfriend is cheating on him on the day of his graduation. Herbert is sort-of conned into taking a job as houseboy at this House of Desirable Women by its owner, Helen N. Wellenmellon (played by opera singer Helen Traubel) and housekeeper, Katie (Jerry Lewis regular Kathleen Freeman — The Errand Boy, Mail Order Bride) and promptly embarks on a series of misadventures which range from mildly funny to not-at-all funny.
I don’t know what it is about Lewis that provokes such adoration in certain quarters. And I’m not just talking about the French here — there are plenty of American critics who see so much more in Lewis’s comedy than I do. Their reading is of some deep psycho-something-or-other genius at work while I just see some guy pulling faces and falling over. In fact, the most impressive aspect of The Ladies Man is the elaborate set in which most of the action takes place. It’s basically a giant doll’s house with the front cut away so that the viewer can see all the rooms (on three floors), and it really is quite astonishing, as well as being an appropriate reflection of Lewis’s childlike screen persona and juvenile level of humour.
Lewis directed The Ladies Man following the phenomenal success of The Bellboy, and his direction, and the look of the film — all vivid colours and striking images — is far more impressive than his performance. A reasonably funny cameo from former movie tough guy George Raft (The Bowery, Some Like it Hot), for whom regular screen roles had all but dried up by this time in his life, is worth catching, but overall The Ladies Man will please only confirmed Lewis fans.
(Reviewed 24th February 2014)